Sender Score and Email Reputation: Everything You Need to Know

Vladislav Podolyako
Apr 28, 2022
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A good grade is something that everyone strives for, regardless of the field or the line of work. For email marketers, they need to make sure that their workflow brings efficiency. And what better way to do this than to have a score for your email campaigns? Through sender score, you can keep track of your productivity and email reputation

We are well aware that for most people, sender score and email reputation are absolutely new terms. That is why we are here to make things clear and explain what they are.

What Is Email Reputation?

Email reputation is a set of bars and checks that comprise several standards to come up with your email deliverability practices. The three main components that you need to know are:

  • IP Reputation.
  • Content Reputation.
  • Domain Reputation.

IP Reputation

With the flow of time, more and more people resorted to using email for business and personal use. However, as great as it was, this process had its own demons it brought with the new technology. And this demon was spam. Therefore, in an attempt to combat this, the dominant internet service providers, or ISPs, that offered these email services started to use IP reputation to check for email quality. 

IP reputation will calculate the extent to which users want to receive email from IP addresses by measuring the bounces, spam, and unwanted bulk mail. ISPs had to create very strict rules to measure IP reputation scores. Although the standards were different from each other, they all had similar tasks. 

However, after a while, IP reputation on its own was not sufficient. The main reason for this was that it did not consider how the separate IPs could deliver unwanted emails with the same content. 

Content Reputation

Fast forward a few years later, a new standard was introduced that could assist in the measuring of email sender quality, and it was content reputation. It works with different metrics that specifically look at the written content of the email.

When using content to filter through email, there are clear red flags that the ISPs notice, like attaching viruses, words asking for bank details, and of the like. However, the major trigger that will alert the ISPs that this is unwanted mail is when emails keep getting low opening rates or when they are flagged, blocked, and even unsubscribed

When it comes to email reputation, the IP address and the content play a pivotal role. It is because, with the IP address, you are able to determine the quality of the email sent through the email history. And with the content reputation score, you can identify the wording of the email and, therefore, check if the sender is worthy of your time or not. 

Domain Reputation

Another one of the check standards is domain reputation. By using it, you can measure the authentic email within every domain. The reason why domain reputation was introduced was that an IP and a domain can be different, therefore, you need to check both.

While the above three email reputation checking standards are the main ones, it does not mean that they are the only ones. When it comes to email reputation, there are a bunch of other tests that can be used, all of which have been created through tracking down and watching different hacking practices, as well as through observing malicious emails. By doing so, ISPs are able to catch them before they corrupt their clients’ emails. 

When it comes to email sending and a good reputation, it goes beyond the content of your email. ISPs also have strict security measures to determine if you are an authentic email sender or not. 

What Is Sender Score?

A sender score is a way to keep track of your email sending practices. One could say that it is a credit score, but for your email. Sender score, created by Return Path, measures how effective your email marketing program is. It will give you a mark ranging from 0 to 100.  The score shows your sender’s reputation and gives you details on how mailbox providers view your IP address. To come up with your sender score, a lot of matrices will come into play, some of which include spam complaints, the number of unknown users you email, and blacklists, to name but a few. 

How to Calculate Sender Score

When you are dealing with a sender score, you need to understand that it will be determined by the data that Return Path receives. The ISP identifies the quality of your email by using their own datasets, which are not based on Return Path's sender score. Therefore, it means that while you can get a good percentage on sender score, it does not mean that your email will land in your clients’ inboxes

The best way to deal with email sending is through looking at the source and focusing on the deliverability. It is the rate that defines whether email campaigns will land in the inbox versus the spam folder. It is what the sender score ultimately works on bringing out. 

How Can I Check My Sender Score?

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To check your sender score, you simply need to follow the steps below:

  1. Visit
  2. Create an account by using your professional email.
  3. You will be sent a confirmation email. Then, you need to click the CTA to activate your account.
  4. You will then be redirected to a page where you will need to enter the IP address or the domain name.
  5. Enter the IP address of the domain that you want to view, and then you will be given the sender score.
  6. When you search by entering a domain name, you will be given the following data:
  • IPs sending mail from the domain;
  • their email sending volume;
  • sender score.

The information you will be given is based on the last 30 days before your search. 

What Is a Good Sender Score?

A sender score will retrieve information that shows the following:

  1. The number of users who complain about your emails and refer to them as junk - Complaint Rate.
  2. The number of invalid email addresses in your subscription list - Unknown User Rate.
  3. Spam traps are email addresses with no owners; their main aim is to catch spammers and senders who apply poor practices - Spam Traps and Triggers. 
  • These are email accounts that have never had any owners and have been created with the goal of catching bad senders - Pristine Spam Traps.
  • These are dormant email accounts that have been changed to be spam traps - Recycled Spam Traps.

Does a Good Sender Score Mean No More Email Worries?

While a high sender score is great, it does not mean all your email marketing campaign woes are over. A sender score does a great job, but there are some areas where it has been found to be lacking. The main reason why it will not lead to the overall solution for email marketing issues is that it is not created by ISPs. IPSs have their own ways of measuring email reputation, and they have other factors that are part of their evaluation process. 

Vital aspects that are not included in the sender score are:

  • subscriber engagement;
  • the mailbox sending reputation calculation;
  • email content.

Sender score does not calculate these things, but they are important when dealing with email reputation. Various experts have reached the conclusion that a good sender score does not equate to efficient email delivery, and a poor score determines that your email will be undelivered.

Don’t base your email marketing strategy solely on a high sender score. Instead, focus on your deliverability as it is the best way to determine if your email will be delivered or not. To improve your email deliverability, you can try services like Folderly

More Email Indicators

Despite your sender score, you can always opt for other email reputation solutions that meet your needs. Take Google Postmasters, for instance. It focuses on analyzing and measuring email sending practices based loosely on the filter system used by Gmail. Therefore, if the majority of the email users are using Gmail, Google Postmasters is a great alternative.

When dealing with email marketing reputation tools, you need to understand that different ISPs use various standards for their email checks. It is the reason why you may have good deliverability on Outlook, but poor deliverability for Gmail. 

It is important to bear in mind that ISPs have different standards, and they are often created in a manner such that they are above the spammers. If they were all the same, hacking them would be a walk in the park. Therefore, if you want to improve your sending reputation, you have to focus on your email sending practices. 

Ways to Improve My Sender Score and Email Sending Reputation

We have already mentioned that sender reputation uses other factors to determine your email sending, and these are:

  1. IP Reputation is determined by the number of people who want to receive emails from the email address.
  2. Content Reputation measures the wording of the email. Does it sound like spam, and is it consistent?
  3. Domain Reputation will check whether the email is sent from your domain as a whole and validate through authentication methods. 

Authenticate Your SPF and DKIM

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When you authenticate your account, it means that there are only a few specific IPs that will be able to send emails with the use of your domain. It will protect you from spammers who might try to use your account.  

The DKIM is the signature that you use in all your email campaigns. Through the use of the DKIM, the email sender can provide proof to the ISP that it is their email address and that it is valid. Therefore, with the signature, the email will then be sent to the inbox; without it, it will hard-bounce.

The SPF refers to the number of valid IP addresses within the domain. DKIM and SPF act as a line of defense to ensure that you are not a victim of other domains using your email address as spam. 

Create Sub-Accounts for Different Email Needs

Another way you can improve your sender reputation is by separating your transactional emails from your marketing emails. You can do this through the creation of sub-accounts. When these emails are separated, you can manage your email better and keep track of metrics like:

  • scheduled sending of marketing emails;
  • the rate at which clients trigger the transactional emails;
  • various types of transactional emails that are being triggered;
  • different emails that are being sent.

When you separate the emails, you are able to clearly track the deliverability and prevent confusion between sections. Also, you avoid clutter. 

Take Charge of Your Engagement Data

Email engagement shows how users view the product you are selling. It allows you to get direct feedback from your clients. With email engagement data, you can keep track of the following metrics:

  • How often your users are opening their emails - Open Rates.
  • The rate at which users are clicking on the links and responding to different calls to action - Click Rate.
  • The rate at which users have complaints after receiving certain emails - Complaint Rates.
  • The amount of time it takes them to read different email campaigns - Engagement Rate.
  • How often your users unsubscribe after they have received your emails - Unsubscribe Rate. 

Segment A/B Test and Personalize

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When we talk about segmentation, we mean grouping your emails based on certain characteristics, like region, gender, age, or occupation, to mention but a few. A/B Testing refers to email marketing through sending different emails to various users to see which one will be received better. Through the use of segmentation and A/B Testing, email marketing can be more personalized and less robotic

Create a Checklist for Email Campaigns

With the use of email campaign checklists, you can see what you have and what you are missing in your email campaigns. With this on your side, you remove unnecessary information from your email. You are also able to check if you have left anything out as well. 

Some things that you can include in your checklist are:

  1. A good subject line.
  2. A pre-header.
  3. Accurate links and UTM tags.
  4. Proofreading.
  5. Good CTAs.

A quick reminder is that you should proofread your email as many times as you need to make sure that it makes sense and that you have created quality content. Poorly written emails will usually bounce. 

Clean Your Email Lists and Have a Double Opt-In

Check your clients’ emails at regular intervals. It will help you sift out inactive users. And with uninterested prospects out of the way, you will avoid one of the ways that spammers can get access to your email. Furthermore, when you use a clean email list, you are assured that you have engaged those who will help you improve in your future campaigns.

Create Email Campaigns That Matter

Have an email strategy that will enable you to create email campaigns that matter and that attract clients. Avoid being too robotic and mechanical. Remember that you're talking to human beings. Put yourself in the shoes of the reader and reread your email as a client. If you think that it reads well, go for it.

Through the use of sender score and email reputation, you are able to quantify your email sending practices. It will help you see how you can improve your email marketing strategy to achieve the best results.

Focus on your deliverability as that is what matters and include what the ISPs require for your email to be sent and received by the client.  Make sure that you always try to give the clients what they want as that is the way to achieve optimum email marketing. 

Vladislav Podolyako
Vladislav Podolyako
Founder & CEO
Vlad’s decades of entrepreneurial wisdom and business building experience have allowed him to successfully mentor a diverse group of business owners, entrepreneurs in growing their companies. A recognized expert in the areas of transforming organizational culture and leadership development, B2B Sales, Marketing, spent more than 10 years building technology products, with a background in communication networks and electronic device engineering.

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